The Grace 20-22 Highbury Corner, London, N5 1R
25 May 2022
The Mesmeranto Tour
New single: Under the Headlights
available now ahead of the new album
The Blackheart Orchestra, like the great psychedelic folk rock bands before them, combines intelligent well-referenced music with a level of innovation that ensures that their work is never derivative. Collecting evidence of thriving modern music at the Bread and Roses in Clapham last month I travelled due north to the heart of Islington to the Grace at Highbury Corner to see the famous Blackheart Orchestra. The Blackheart Orchestra is a perfect example of modern music, every bit as good as the celebrated bands that they had felt privileged enough to support and who formed part of their inspiration.
The Blackheart Orchestra’s gigs tend to be intense. Labels can be a lazy shortcut, but The Blackheart Orchestra presents its take on Neo-Prog Rock roots with many tracks starting quietly, building to an orchestral crescendo. Billed as the Mesmeranto Tour, unsurprisingly the set was dominated by what many fans will regard as their best album yet. Without going too heavily into the history, the current Blackheart Orchestra offerings started with Mesmeranto’s predecessor Diving for Roses. The excellent Songs from a Satellite is the earliest available album, being retained from earlier incarnations all branded Blackheart.
Songs from a Satellite can be likened to The Dark Side of the Moon with critics accepting that the later albums may be technically better, Satellite is how many came to the Blackheart Orchestra and remains a fans’ favourite. Diving for Roses is self-consciously a step forward from Songs from a Satellite, a broader palette for Chrissy Mostyn’s voice. Chrissy’s and Rick Pilkington’s multi-instrumentalism is underscored by the rebranding as Blackheart Orchestra, their duetting as a pair of one-man bands shown to greatest effect live. I would encourage anyone to go and see the Blackheart Orchestra while they are playing at these intimate venues because the stadiums await and that intensity will be diluted.
Drown Me Out, an instant classic, as is Ennikur from Mesmeranto and then a single from Diving for Roses, Sebastian (a real crowd pleaser) set the scene. Another instant classic is Hypnotise from Diving for Roses which I suspect will be an ever present on their sets because it maximises the visual impact of the two of them playing multiple instruments and harmonising. As the set drew to its dramatic close, we were treated to a rendition of their latest single, Under the Headlights, a song from the forthcoming album, Raise Your Heart, and my own personal favourite from Songs from a Satellite, Not Over Yet. The climax of the show came from Diving for Roses with Darling Africa which is one of those tracks that when you hear it on the album you think this is a live track reworked in the studio and so it was, it’s a fabulous track live, you must see Darling Africa. Rick and Chrissy would have known that they pleased their receptive, appreciative, respectful crowd with Hey Pluto as the encore another stunner from Songs from a Satellite. As a footnote there was a chap standing next to me wearing a Blackheart Orchestra t-shirt. He told me that he had been to see them twenty times, having first seen them supporting Hawkwind, reflecting their broad appeal. Blackheart Orchestra have been sponsored by Who’s Who of Classic Rock Bands that see the Blackheart Orchestra as their successor. Modern music is in safe hands when the big bands of yesterday recognise the Blackheart Orchestra as their peer.
Watch out for their upcoming album Hotel Utopia. Diving for Roses moved on from Songs from a Satellite and Mesmeranto capped that. From what we heard at the Grace, Highgate Corner, Hotel Utopia should be better still.